Album Review: Jay Rock, “90059”

Jay Rock 90059
(Top Dawg Entertainment – September 11, 2015)
(Hip Hop, Rap)
Review by Brandon Foster

Black Hippy member Jay Rock (group also includes Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul) has not come out with any solo material since 2011 when he dropped his super slept on and underrated project Follow Me Home. In 2011, Rock was the only Black Hippy member with an official record deal. He was signed to underground mogul and world class emcee Tech N9ne’s Strange Music label. While Rock has not released an album in 4 years, he stays busy by being Black Hippy’s official guest verse specialist and killer while we are at it. Tracks like Kendrick Lamar’s “Money Trees”, Schoolboy Q’s “Los Awesome”, Ab-Soul’s “Lust Demons”, Isaiah Rashad’s “Shot You Down”, Y.G.’s “I Just Wanna Party” keep Rock alive and heighten anticipation for a follow up to Follow Me Home. We now have that with 90059. But this time, Jay Rock is completely independent with allegiance to Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). The album’s name comes from the area code of the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles that Rock is from. Just by the name, you know this is going to be some super Cali shit.

The total run time of 90059 runs a little over 45 minutes. As short as it is, it works perfectly. It’s a ‘wham bam thank you mam’ but definitely leaves you fulfilled. “Necessary” is the first track but it sounds more like an outro rather than an intro. But then, the beat switches and Rock assassinates the beat as he references the importance of staying on your grind. There is a little bit of everything for you in this song. “Easy Bake” is the next track and it is straight abyss music. Not a lot going on musically but it slaps. The track features his Black Hippy partner Kendrick Lamar and TDE songstress SZA. While Kendrick and Rock exchange bars at the beginning, we get another beat switch to this thumping throwback G-Funk beat.

“Wanna Ride” features another in house TDE guest, Isaiah Rashad. This is another minimal track but it has this crazy bounce in it that makes it exclusive for your whip. Straight riding music with Rock dropping gangsta jewels all over the place. While Rock’s aggressive delivery and content permeate throughout the album, he does rear back the testosterone with “Telegram (Going Crazy)” featuring Lance Skiiiwalker (Rock’s alter ego). “Telegram” touches on how social media can destroy a relationship. While this track hints at underwhelming clichés at first, it takes on a very unique styling and reframes the content to project a sentiment that has not been tackled yet.

Sweet serenading does not last for too long as the title track “90059” sounds like something from a horror movie. Rock amps right back up again and completely destroys this track with the help of ‘ol Lance Skiiiwalker again. The next track features the first Black Hippy track in 3 years in “Vice City”. All four members talk about their obsessions with big booties, money making, gang banging, and drugs for nearly 5 minutes. While the track is all about vices which is nothing new as far as rap is concerned, the strange off beat flow of all four members actually works.

“Money Trees Deuce” is near the end of the album. This is part two of the track on Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d. city and easily one of the best songs on it. Rock has a lot to do to follow behind such a great song but he actually finds a way to do it and then makes it seem easy. His wordplay is very elastic over a jazz-trap fueled beat with 808 handclaps. While the album is short, this would have been the perfect track to end it on.

Rock continues TDE’s win streak of great projects. Actually, the westcoast is winning period. The west is running hip-hop this year. While the charts might say this is the year of Future and Drake, a lot of the best hip-hop albums of 2015 has come from the left. I think this is a true resurrection that is going on. While Rock’s album is not as ambitious or daring as his homeboy Kendrick, it does come off a lot more naturally and fluidly. You can sense some influence from To Pimp a Butterfly on 90059. It almost works as TPAB’s ratchet cousin that is up to no good. With 90059, Rock proves he should definitely not be looked over as the weakest of the Black Hippy crew. If only these guys can get their minds right and release that album…

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